By Chris Slone
January 7, 2014
PDT Sports Editor
Athletes are judged on performance. Careers are dictated by statistics. Superstars are viewed as unquestioned leaders.
Right or wrong, those comparisons are used everyday to describe winning players. However, occasionally those adjectives aren’t enough to describe a successful athlete. For Shawnee State senior Alannah Sheets, those juxtapositions only define part of the story.
Sheets successful senior campaign was highlighted earlier in the season when she was named the Mid-South Conference player of the week for two-consecutive weeks.
“That is something I have definitely wanted for a while now,” Sheets said. “I’ve really strived for this achievement but every time I would have a good game, it seems someone else in the conference would have a better week. I was really excited to get that, it was a major goal I wanted to accomplish it and to get it twice, it’s ridiculous.”
The 5-foot-10-inch shooting guard is averaging more than 18 points per game while shooting more than 42 percent from the field and 34 percent from behind the arc. Sheets attributes her offensive efficiency to the play of her teammates.
“My shot selection has gotten a lot better,” Sheets said. “We have really good post play and my teammates have made it a lot easier on me. It’s really hard to just key on one player. In the past, maybe teams have been able to key on me a little bit but this year, our opponents haven’t been able to focus their attention on one player. We have several scoring threats, which has helped give me extra opportunities. I’m getting a lot more open looks because of my teammates.”
Sheets is also averaging almost four rebounds and assists per contest for the Bears, which has been a focal point for the senior.
“I work a lot in the off-season and I realize that one person isn’t going to be able to win the game, so I try to get everyone involved in the game,” Sheets said. “Getting someone an open look can help their confidence, so if I can get other people involved in the game, that makes us better as a team. Our ball movement has been really important this year and it’s led to a lot of open shots.”
Sheets strives to be more of a consistent performer.
“I want to be more of an all-around player, not just a scorer,” Sheets scored. “And it has helped because we have several other scoring threats on the team.”
All of the accolades withstanding, Sheets credits former SSU head coach Robin Hagen-Smith and Current head coach Jeff Nickel for helping her reach her full potential.
“Robin Hagen-Smith has been a huge part of my whole career. She has been more than just a coach to me, she has been like a mom,” Sheets said. “The main reason I came here was because of her tradition and the legacy that she has. I would say she is the most key component in my career. I really look up to her and she’s still here if I need to go talk to her. She has just always been there.”
Nickel has provided a different level support for sheets but the results have been inevitable.
“Jeff Nickel has done a really good job of pushing me and trying to get the best out of me. Anytime I want to work on any part of my game, he’s just a phone call away. He would do anything or anyone of us. If he had to drive six hours to pick someone up because they were stuck in the snow, he would definitely do it.”
The transition from a retiring Hagen-Smith to Nickel wasn’t a completely smooth transformation but Sheets believes the Bears are becoming comfortable with their new leader.
“It’s definitely hard,” Sheets said. “Last year, we had our coach take a leave of absence. The assistant coach (Jeff Nickel) became interim head coach and then eventually became head coach, it was a bit of a transition. It is a completely new style of play. We are running the ball a lot more, pushing it up the floor. The transition has gotten better. I know our record doesn’t show the type of team that we are. It’s taken a while to figure it out but now we are starting to come together, and play well as a team.”
The change in leadership has provided an opportunity for Sheets to showcase her leadership skills.
“The coaching change has been a struggle for us and we haven’t done as well as we’ve expected,” Sheets said. “So, I am trying to take over a little more and lead the team in the right direction. I feel like my teammates look up to me a lot, so I feel like I have a big load on my shoulders that I just have to come through for my team. I’ve got to realize that this is my last go around at it and if we are going to be successful, I have to take a big part in that. I feel like I have become more aggressive and have taken over a leadership role.“
Sheets is a shy person by nature but her leadership is represented through her actions.
“She leads by example,” Nickel said. “Alannah is not a vocal leader. She will speak up at times but she does a really good job of leading by example.”
Regardless of the final outcomes, the Logan, W.Va., native has no reservations about her decision to attend SSU.
“I love Shawnee,” Sheets said. “I definitely made the right decision going there. The community is behind us 100 percent. We have the golden bears, who are some older folks in the community. They come out to every game and support us. We have some that even travel with us. The community has just been great. It’s a small town and everyone knows what’s going on. We are pretty much a spotlight in the town and women’s basketball is a huge deal. I love the school, I love the classroom size, I love everything about it, the campus is really good.”
With the results of her senior campaign left to be written, Sheets has plenty of memories and accomplishments to be proud of.
“I’ve played against some outstanding athletes,” Sheets said. “We get a lot of Division I and II recruits in our conference, and to say I was able to keep up with them, that was a huge accomplishment. Also, my final-four experience my freshman year has stuck with me. That was an amazing run. And I would like to get back, hopefully we will have the opportunity this year.”
When her career concludes, Sheets will have several career options at her disposal. Sheets will have a Bachelor degree in Health-care Administration.
“Hopefully, I will be able to get a good job when I graduate,” Sheets said. “I have thought about staying in this community. My coach has told me that if I would like to stay and coach, I would be given that opportunity. I have thought about that a little bit. I am just going to wait until I graduate and see where things lead me. I am going to keep an open mind and I know things will work out like they are suppose too.”
From Nickel’s perspective, a career in coaching is a distinct possibility if Sheets chooses that particular career path.
“She understands what to expect from players,” Nickel said. “She has an excellent understanding of the game. She has an incredible basketball IQ. She’s got an excellent memory. She understands offense and defense. She’s a really good contributor to the staff and the team from the things she’s able to pick up on. If coaching is something she wants to do and she decides to stick around next year, I think she could be an excellent coach.”
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Chris on Twitter at crslone.